Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East From the Cold War to the Present

In This Review

Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East From the Cold War to the Present
By Yevgeny Primakov
Basic Books, 2009
432 pp. $29.95
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No living Russian knows more about Soviet and Russian policy in the Middle East than Primakov, and none has known more key figures from the region better. From his days as a Pravda correspondent in Cairo in the mid-1960s through his time as Russian foreign minister and then prime minister in the 1990s -- a career stretching from Leonid Brezhnev to Vladimir Putin -- he has been personally involved in every major Middle Eastern event, from the wars of 1967 and 1973 to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and in between the turmoil in Lebanon, Sudan, and Yemen. He has interviewed and negotiated with every major Middle Eastern leader, from Syria's Hafez al-Assad to Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Much of the book is, indeed, "behind the scenes," as he lets the reader in on his conversations with Yassir Arafat (whom he admired), Golda Meir (he led secret negotiations with the Israelis from 1971 to 1977), Saddam, and many others. But he also inserts these accounts into thoughtful reflections on the sources of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab nationalism, the failure of communism in the Middle East, and the many missed opportunities to break the cycle of violence.